December 2010 - Reports
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Manchester City 4 Aston Villa 0     Balotelli sinks the Villa
Tuesday 28th December 2010 : GYKO at the COMSTAD

It was one of those days, for Manchester City, when everything clicked. There was even a rare smile from Mario Balotelli on his most satisfying day yet for his new club, the scorer of a hat-trick after being entrusted with Carlos Tevez's place. Roberto Mancini's side were rampant, full of hard running and inventive forward play, on another painful day for an Aston Villa side who appear to be in freefall.

Villa were obliging opponents for a team of City's ambitions and there was little respite for Gérard Houllier's side. The first three goals arrived inside the opening 27 minutes and, after that, it was an exercise in damage limitation for a club who have now lost five of their past six league games. Balotelli's hat-trick goal, his second penalty of the afternoon, rounded off City's biggest home win of the season and, at the final whistle, the league table was immediately flashed up on the large screen to show Mancini's men at the top. On this evidence they can be regarded as authentic challengers, although they will be fortunate to face another side as vapid and rudderless as Villa, who were subjected to derisive cries from the away section.

Long before the end Villa's supporters had resorted to dark humour, celebrating a corner as if they had scored and cheering with ironic "olés" when a move of half a dozen passes was put together. But there was anger, too, and the strength of feeling against Houllier is clearly building, only three months after his appointment. "You're not fit to wear the shirt," the fans sang. There were other, more abusive chants, directed personally at the manager.

City have had a few of those days themselves, but they seem a long time ago now. Balotelli put them on their way in the eighth minute after Eric Lichaj, using both arms, had brought him down for the first penalty. His second was a tap‑in after Brad Friedel had blocked David Silva's shot and, in between, Joleon Lescott scored City's first headed goal of the season from Adam Johnson's corner. The game was effectively over with not even half an hour gone.

Villa had legitimate complaints that Lescott's effort had not gone over the goal line before Barry Bannan headed it clear, but theirs was not a performance that attracted sympathy and, to give them their due, they did not dwell on any misplaced sense of injustice. It was a bad decision, but there was also an argument that Lichaj ought to have been shown a red card for the penalty. The simple truth was that Villa were abysmal, low on confidence and effort, and it was a surprise in many ways that City did not add to their total once Marc Albrighton had fouled Johnson to give away the penalty for Balotelli's hat‑trick.

The Italian now has eight goals in 11 appearances for City, which goes a long way to explaining why Mancini is willing to put up with the stresses and strains the striker occasionally brings to his workplace. After his first goal there was even the sight of his team-mates, led by Nigel de Jong, imploring him to smile. Balotelli duly obliged after making it 3-0 – but only briefly.

The paradox was that he was often on the fringes of the match and the man-of-the-match award went to Silva, even though he had been substituted with half an hour to play. Balotelli could also be seen in the final minutes asking Mancini if he could come off the pitch and, at the final whistle, he headed straight down the tunnel without acknowledging the supporters or claiming the match ball. The man is an enigma, but Mancini will not mind too much if this brooding, mysterious character can continue to ease what, at times, has been an over-reliance on Tevez.

The real problems are with Villa, and their supporters may not be overly impressed to learn that John Carew had ruled himself out because he did not think he was fit enough after travelling back to Norway for Christmas and getting stuck in the snow.

"We are, definitely," Houllier said when he was asked whether Villa were now in a relegation battle, adding that he had not heard the supporters singing for his removal. "The problem is in the team; I thought the fans were fantastic. But we need to turn the corner. It's a really big job and the players know we're going through a difficult run."

Teams
Manchester City:

Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Zabaleta, De Jong (Bridge 77mins), Vieira, Yaya Toure (Jo 63mins, Silva (Milner 58mins), Balotelli, A. Johnson

Unused subs:
Given, Tevez, Boateng, and Barry

Bookings:
Aston Villa:

Friedel, Lichaj, Collins, Cuellar, Warnock, Abrighton (Delfounesco 57mins), Petrov, Reo-Coker (Pires 81mins), Downing, Agbonlahor, Bannan (Delph 57mins)

Unused subs:
Clark, Guzan, Osbourne, Herd

Bookings:
Warnock (18 mins), Lichaj (69mins)

Att: 46716

Referee:
Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

 

Newcastle United 1 Manchester City 3    Back on Track
Sunday 26th December 2010 : Steven Palin for GYKO at St James Park

Who says you cannot win anything wearing snoods? Well muffled against the bitter Tyneside cold Manchester City may have been but all the neck warmers and gloves in northern England could not disguise their ruthless incision as they reasserted their title credentials in chillingly effective fashion.

All in all it proved the happiest of anniversaries for Roberto Mancini, who took charge of City for the first time on Boxing Day 2009. The Italian was rewarded for 12 months' endeavour with a rare smile from Carlos Tevez, newly reconciled to life at Eastlands – possibly, even to the idea of being substituted – after the visiting captain's late replacement by Mario Balotelli.

At that juncture the Argentinian's second goal of the afternoon had effectively secured the gritty win which leaves City one place off the Premier League summit.

It is only Mancini's second English Christmas but even he must have been taken aback by the generosity of Newcastle United's welcome presents. The first arrived courtesy of Tim Krul, the Dutch goalkeeper paying a heavy price for a poor piece of opening-minute footwork which saw his attempt to play the ball gleefully intercepted by Tevez. Alert to an unexpected possibility, Gareth Barry sprinted down the left, Tevez perfectly delayed his pass and Barry's first-time left-foot shot resulted in the ball dinking beyond Krul and into the bottom corner. From that moment Barry soared in confidence, enjoying a fine game.

Alan Pardew's new side had barely regrouped before they were two down. This time the normally reliable, and subsequently impressive, Cheik Tioté conceded midfield possession to Tevez. Spotting James Milner, back at a former home, free on the right, City's captain played him in before accelerating into position to connect with the England winger's cross. It proved a good one, enabling a stretching, sliding Tevez to flick out his left foot and sweep a delicate low volley past Krul. It was his 11th Premier League goal of the season.

By way of slightly unhygienic celebration the Argentinian pulled a baby's dummy out of his sock and stuck it in his mouth.

Andy Carroll is said to be high on Mancini's January shopping list but the centre forward, whom Pardew says is not for sale, hardly boosted his valuation by heading straight at Joe Hart after meeting Wayne Routledge's cross when unmarked. Carroll, though, then gave Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott an exhausting work-out as, admirably refusing to fold, Newcastle rallied with Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan leading a rearguard action. Carroll threatened to score from almost every delivery into the box and Mancini will have been grateful that Milner's diligent efforts in tracking back against Jonás Gutiérrez and José Enrique limited the striker's service from crosses.

Suddenly tackles were flying in all over the place with a contretemps between Tioté and Yaya Touré proving emblematic. Signficantly Yaya Touré's advanced role in the visiting 4-2-3-1 formation was making life harder than usual for Tioté.

Encouragingly for Mancini, Tevez and friends gave as good as they got. The snood count may have been 4-1 in City's heavily gloved favour but their physical edge made a mockery of suggestions that warm necks and hands necessarily spell "soft".

Even City's notoriously hard-to-please manager applauded enthusiastically when Tevez, playing like a man possessed, tracked back and cleanly dispossessed Gutiérrez thanks to a wonderfully timed interception. Similarly undaunted by Newcastle's robust response, David Silva repeatedly used his superior vision and control to initiate counterattacks, on one occasion selling Routledge a wonderful dummy.

Pardew waited until the hour before making a change and finally replacing Routledge with Nile Ranger as he shifted from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2. Meeting fire with fire worked, Carroll soon scoring after wrong-footing Lescott at a Barton corner and thumping a header beyond Hart's reach.

Immediately City looked nervous, particularly when the onrushing Nolan poked Ranger's headed flick tantalising wide. Then Mancini got a slightly lucky, if not entirely undeserved, break as the substitute Adam Johnson slipped the ball to Tevez. Following some fancy footwork he unleashed a curling shot which took a hefty deflection off Fabricio Coloccini's backside en route beyond Krul.

Almost immediately Mancini withdrew Tevez, introducing Balotelli, wearing an outsize snood, in his stead as captain and manager showed off their recent rapprochement with smiles and an embrace. Refusing to capture the mood, Balotelli – whom Mancini wants to smile more – collected a stupid booking for dissent but this was an afternoon when not one team-mate had set him a bad example. Maybe Mancini is building a real team after all.

Teams

Newcastle Krul, Simpson, Steven Taylor, Coloccini,Jose Enrique, Routledge (Ranger 60), Barton, Tiote, Gutierrez,Nolan, Carroll.

Subs Not Used: Harper, Williamson, Guthrie, Perch, Smith, Best.

Booked: Nolan.

Goals: Carroll 72.

Man City Hart, Boateng, Lescott, Kompany, Kolarov, Barry,De Jong, Milner, Toure Yaya (Vieira 83),Silva (Adam Johnson 69), Tevez (Balotelli 85).

Subs Not Used: Given, Richards, Zabaleta, Jo.

Booked: Silva, Lescott, Hart, Balotelli, Adam Johnson.

Goals: Barry 2, Tevez 5, 81.

Att: 51,635

Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

Manchester City 1 Everton 2      Toffee suckers again
Monday 20th December 2010 : GYKO at the COMSTAD


Manchester City's failure to reach the top of the Premier League was the least of it. This loss raised doubts as to whether they are equipped with the toughness of mind necessary to get to the pinnacle and stay there. The flaws were seen everywhere. They were drab when the onus was on them to take command, still passive as Everton snatched a second goal and absurd when Kolo Touré was sent off for two cautionable offences in quick succession at the very end.

City will complain about penalty appeals rejected by the referee, Peter Walton, but in each case there was a question as to whether there had been rashness or intent in the handball. Everton had pulled off a feat that must be admired all the more because they had arrived without a victory in seven games and also had to withstand the dismissal of their forward Victor Anichebe in the second half.

So far as City are concerned, this outcome should make them worry about their sparse scoring rate at home. Carlos Tevez could do almost nothing to enhance it on an occasion that was intended to speak of a renewal in his relationship with the club. He had withdrawn his transfer request and, in the spirit of concord, been allowed to retain the captaincy.

It is not all that uncommon for any striker to end a match without a goal, but there must have been a yearning to see Tevez confirm by his deeds that City is where he sees his future. However, the principal difficulty with the Argentinean is that they cannot afford to see him have a humdrum match. No other striker on the books has either the hunger or the technique to score repeatedly.

It was an apt assessment of their condition that the City goal was accidentally put into his own net by a blameless Phil Jagielka in the 72nd minute. The passing by David Silva and the substitute Adam Johnson had been convincing then, but the drive from Yaya Touré still needed the assistance of that ricochet off the centre-back.

With 13 minutes to go, City almost levelled even though parity was more than they deserved. After Mario Balotelli hit a post, Howard beat him to the loose ball and then got himself in the path of a Tevez drive.

The Argentinean caught the eye then and he can legitimately argue that his team-mates caused too little mayhem. It may have been an indifferent showing by Tevez but little was done to bring out the best in him. City could not get over the shock of the boldness Everton brought with them to Eastlands.

The goals scored so early in the night left City bemused as well as wounded. Apart from considering the harm inflicted they must have been incapable of understanding how little they had done to interrupt the visitors. After four minutes, a delivery from the left by Leighton Baines went deep to Seamus Coleman and he turned it into the centre for Cahill to score with a header.

City might have fatalistic about the circumstances of the second goal in the 19th minute. They were down to 10 men since the right-back Pablo Zabaleta was off the field so that a cut to his head could be bandaged. Nonetheless, Everton's move was of such fluency that it would be churlish to insist that the goal had come through weight of numbers alone.

Baines made ground on the left and his delivery was laid off by Anichebe to Cahill, with the midfielder setting up Baines to complete the move he started by bending a finish into the far post with his right foot.

It had been so exquisite a piece of play that it looked as if it were Everton rather than City who possessed limitless riches. Some in the home ranks would have started to recall a pair of defeats to David Moyes's team in the league last season. Indeed this was a fourth successive Everton victory here. They might have been thinking, too, about their own bluntness in attack, with just eight league goals scored at home before this match.

Everton, however, had been in difficulties of late and that was reflected in the fact that Moyes preferred Anichebe despite the fact that the striker has rejected a new contract offer and was booed when he came on in the goalless draw with Wigan. Anichebe's rehabilitation had made great progress by half-time, but he was to prove reckless even if Walton was draconian.

Having been booked for impeding Joe Hart in the 55th minute Anichebe still made a needless challenge on Zabaleta and was dismissed. Nothing, all the same, will dampen Everton's joy. For City, the frustration and doubt about the progress of their enterprise will wash over them once more.

Teams:

Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Toure, Kompany, Kolarov, Milner (Adam Johnson 46), Toure Yaya, Barry, Silva, Tevez,Balotelli (Jo 83).

Subs Not Used: Given, Richards, Wright-Phillips, Boateng,

Vieira.

Sent Off: Toure (90).

Booked: Kompany, Toure, Barry.

Goals: Jagielka 72 og.

Everton Howard, Neville, Jagielka (Hibbert 79), Distin, Baines, Coleman (Saha 76), Rodwell, Fellaini,Osman (Bilyaletdinov 75), Cahill, Anichebe.

Subs Not Used: Mucha, Beckford, Gueye, Yakubu.

Sent Off: Anichebe (60).

Booked: Fellaini, Anichebe.

Goals: Cahill 4, Baines 19.

Att: 45,028

Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

Juventus 1 Manchester City 1        Jo Makes his Point
Thursday 16th December 2010 : Antonio Fuchina in Italy for GYKO

In the end, there was a satisfactory outcome for Manchester City, and Roberto Mancini will hope it is the same tomorrow when he is due to meet Carlos Tevez for the first time since the Argentinian went public with his wish for a transfer. Before heading for the airport the City manager confirmed Tevez would play against Everton on Monday. "Why not?" he asked.

Mancini also made it clear that he would seek a swift conclusion to the dispute with City's leading scorer, though he will be praying he is back in time for the meeting after the team's plane was stranded in Turin last night. "It's important we finish it quickly," he said. "I haven't had this situation before but it could happen at any club, in England or Italy, and I want to speak to him to understand what he wants to do. We do not want it to continue like this and I think this can finish in the next two days."

It promises to be a challenging 48 hours but Mancini was a happy man as he left the Stadio Olimpico, threatening to strike one journalist with his microphone when the subject returned to Tevez, and proclaiming his satisfaction with his team's performance. Jô's 77th-minute equaliser ensures they qualify for the next stage as group winners – an achievement that, in theory, should carry its rewards when the draw is made in Switzerland tomorrow.

Niccolò Giannetti's goal, late in the first half, had opened up the possibility that Mancini's team could finish as runners-up to Lech Poznan and potentially face one of the four stronger teams to drop down from the Champions League. Yet City's travelling supporters were rewarded for braving the sub-zero temperatures when Jô scored with a clinical left-foot drive from Adam Johnson's pass.

The Brazilian seemed to have already scored what should have been a legitimate equaliser only for his close-range effort to be disallowed for offside and, in terms of creating chances, the draw was the least that City deserved on a night when there were vast expanses of empty seats inside this old stadium and little to remind us why Juventus are one of the great names of European football. There was also another demonstration of some of the most disreputable aspects of Italian football culture when a section of fans aimed monkey noises at Patrick Vieira, a returning former Juventus player.

Tevez was absent here because City had qualified and Mancini had decided to leave most of his first-team picks in Manchester. This was an evening for experimentation, with Micah Richards captaining the side, Shay Given recalled in place of Joe Hart and a frontline of Jô and Alex Nimely, a 19-year-old making his first start.

City had the more penetrative edge in the opening exchanges, Richards close to setting up Jô inside the first minute and Alex Manninger, with a full-length save, preventing Mohamed Sissoko from scoring an own goal.

Yet City still had to cope with the enduring quality of Alessandro Del Piero and, shortly before half-time, this wonderfully talented footballer, now 36, evaded Richards inside the penalty area. His low cross picked out Giannetti, darting in front of Dedryck Boyata to divert the ball past Given with a clever finish off the outside of his boot.

There were long spells, though, when Juventus seemed to be merely going through the motions and City were the stronger side for the last halfhour. As well as Jô's disallowed goal, Mancini was convinced they should have been awarded a penalty when a Shaun Wright-Phillips shot struck the defender Giorgio Chiellini's arm.

Shortly afterwards Johnson, increasingly prominent as the game wore on, slipped a pass into Jô and the striker took one touch to open an angle for himself to drive a low shot into the bottom left corner of Manninger's goal. "We want to go all the way," Mancini said afterwards – and that means with Tevez.

Teams

Juventus Manninger, Grygera, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Traore (Boniperti 66), Krasic (Camilleri 56), Sissoko, Felipe Melo, Pepe, Giannetti (Buchel 79), Del Piero.

Subs Not Used: Storari, Iaquinta, Bonucci, Giandonato.

Booked: Felipe Melo, Sissoko.

Goals: Giannetti 43.

Man City Given, Boateng, Richards, Boyata, Bridge, Wright-Phillips (Chantler 90), Milner, Vieira, Adam Johnson, Jo, Nimely (Zabaleta 61).

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Kay, Mee, Ibrahim, Elabdellaoui.

Booked: Zabaleta.

Goals: Jo 76.

Att: 6,992

Ref: Istvan Vad (Hungary). 

West Ham United 1 Manchester City 4     Capital Stuff
Saturday 11th December 2010 : Dan Barton for GYKO at Upton Park

Roberto Mancini made a swift exit from east London on Saturday evening, so he could travel to Ancona and see his ailing father, Aldo. As he landed in his hometown, the Italian would have known of Carlos Tevez's transfer request. The fallout will be unavoidable and perhaps defining for the Manchester City manager upon his return to England tomorrow. He must wonder when the internal strife will ever end.

There have been punch-ups on the training ground and arguments in the dressing room for Mancini to deal with since he arrived at Eastlands 12 months ago but none of that compares to the desire of his captain to leave because of supposed home sickness. City have rejected Tevez's request but they undeniably face a struggle to keep hold of the 26-year-old Argentinean, who has scored 33 goals in 50 league game since arriving from Manchester United in July 2009.

It is in this context that comments made by Brian Kidd, Mancini's assistant, following City's victory here were significant. "There are definitely comparisons between the boss and Sir Alex [Ferguson]," said Kidd, who worked alongside the United manager as he established a golden era at Old Trafford. "He [Mancini] is a winner and has a great will to win. He was disappointed we lost a goal [against West Ham], because he is never satisfied, which is great to see. I have been there with Sir Alex."

City supporters may squirm at the thought of Mancini being the new Ferguson but if that is the case then now is the time for him to do his best impression of the Scot. After all, total discipline is required of a team who even in the process of gaining the win that put them joint-top of the Premier League were characterised by the angst of Mario Balotelli, who replaced the suspended Tevez up front and spent most of his time throwing his arms in the air and punching goalposts in frustration. He was substituted by Mancini, the Italian aware that his compatriot had been booked for dissent and was in danger of being sent off for a second time in five appearances for the club.

Balotelli reacted by stomping down the tunnel, making it two matches in a row in which a City striker has shown his fury at being replaced. Tevez was the first, in the win against Bolton Wanderers last week, and it is he whom Mancini must deal with first.

Here in particular Ferguson's example is one Mancini would be advised to follow. The United manager drew admiration for the way in which he reacted to his own principal striker, Wayne Rooney, asking for a transfer in October and then persuaded the 25-year-old to stay, albeit with the help of a pay rise. It will, then, be interesting to see if Mancini uses his press conference before Thursday's Europa League tie against Juventus to "do a Fergie" and paint City as the victim of a disloyal, ungrateful player.

It will frustrate the 46-year-old that Tevez is overshadowing City's progress on the pitch. They are undefeated in the league since 30 October, with this victory among their most emphatic. West Ham simply could not cope with their aggression in midfield and fluidity in attack, where Yaya Touré and David Silva excelled.

Touré's placing behind a lone striker remains a curious one but he showed great attacking instinct here, giving the visitors the lead with a rasping drive before rampaging into the penalty area on 73 minutes and hitting a shot that deflected off Robert Green to make it 2-0. Adam Johnson, who came on for Balotelli, made it 3-0 after collecting a sumptuous pass from Silva.

While the other title contenders face each other over Christmas and the new year, City have a string of fixtures which appear more than winnable. Little wonder that the squad see the period as a crucial one. "There are massive games coming and we have a big chance to get close [to the top]," said Kolo Touré. "We want to focus really well at this time."

Focus is also needed at West Ham. Their only solace here was James Tomkins' late consolation goal. They remain bottom of the league and short of confidence and quality. Their manager, Avram Grant, believes both can be rectified with investment during the January transfer window and he has even provided the club's owners, David Gold and David Sullivan, with a sum that could save the club from relegation.

"With £10m I can do a lot," said Grant. "We need additional players, dangerous players – there are a lot of decisions to make. If the owners gave me £10m that would be great."

Given their resources, City may well also spend next month, but those associated with the club will hope it is not done according to the need to replace their most influential player.

Teams:

West Ham Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Upson, Ben-Haim, Barrera (Cole 71), Spector, Parker, Stanislas (Dyer 65), Piquionne (Hines 80), Obinna.

Subs Not Used: Stech, Reid, Boa Morte, Kovac.

Booked: Ben-Haim.

Goals: Tomkins 89.

Man City Hart, Boateng, Toure, Kompany, Zabaleta, De Jong, Barry, Jo, Toure Yaya, Silva (Milner 86), Balotelli (Adam Johnson 61).

Subs Not Used: Given, Richards, Santa Cruz, Lescott, Vieira.

Booked: Balotelli, De Jong, Zabaleta.

Goals: Toure Yaya 30, Green 73 og, Adam Johnson 81.

Att: 32,813

Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

Manchester City 1 Bolton Wanderers 0    City Turn up the Heat
Saturday 4th December 2010 : GYKO at the COMSTAD

Despite the photographic evidence from their training ground, Manchester City are still pulling their punches. They created enough chances to win this game by a handsome margin, with David Silva alone doing enough to win three or four games, but managed to find ways of missing most of them and ended up clinging on for victory over their cash-strapped neighbours with 10 men. There was not a lot to choose between the sides by that stage, and as Owen Coyle conceded, it was not one of Bolton's better displays.

"We never reached the heights we have shown we are capable of this season," the Bolton manager said. "We hardly gave ourselves the best start by conceding a soft goal so early, but we came back into it."

Missing from City's squadsheet was Jérôme Boateng, one half of the Carrington sparring match, while Mario Balotelli, the other protagonist, played the whole game but only briefly came to life in the second half. Once again City were indebted to Carlos Tevez, for his 10th goal of the season, even if the story of the game was the number of opportunities strikers missed. "We must improve," Roberto Mancini said. "We had maybe 15 chances to score and we deserved to win by three or four goals. I think if I had played in the game I would have scored two or three."

City have been waiting two months for a home league goal, and when one arrived as early as the fourth minute the crowd settled back in anticipation of a feast. It did not quite work out that way, however, and poor finishing and decision-making meant Tevez's early breakthrough was all that separated the sides at the end. Tevez had already seen a shot saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen by the time Yaya Touré sent him clear after three and a half minutes, the midfielder winning the ball on the halfway line and taking Gary Cahill out of the equation with a perfectly placed pass behind the centre-half. Tevez stayed onside to do the rest, muscling on to the ball and tucking an early shot past the goalkeeper.

Tevez and Silva were incensed midway through the first half when a goal was unnecessarily chalked off for offside, and the City captain earned himself a booking and suspension by booting the ball away in disgust when his next challenge was deemed illegal. Yet for the most part City only had themselves to blame. Tevez produced a tame shot from Silva's cut-back, then managed only the feeblest of miskicks in front of goal when Aleksandar Kolarov teed him up from the opposite flank. Inbetween, Pablo Zabaleta missed the clearest opening of all, and though Bolton rarely bothered Joe Hart they turned round still in touch.

The visitors could have drawn level at the start of the second half when Kevin Davies connected sweetly with a Sam Ricketts cross but sent his volley a couple of feet too high.

City were better in the second half, without being in any way deadly. Zabaleta brought a save from Silva's pass before Balotelli came into the game, hitting a post when he should have done better, then seeing a sharper effort blocked by Cahill. Tevez wasted another invitation from Silva before the Spain striker took matters into his own hands and shot against the bar.

Hart almost brought Bolton back into it when he spilled a free-kick and needed Vincent Kompany to tidy up on the line, and the final 12 minutes became even more interesting when Kolarov picked up two bookings in quick succession, the second for a two-footed challenge on Ricketts.

Looking on the bright side, as is customary here, entering December three points off the top and just a point behind Chelsea is not a bad position to be in, and it was even being argued that City would have lost this game last season. "I still expect Chelsea to win the title," Mancini said. Perhaps he had better find his boots and make a comeback. Like one of Tevez's goal attempts, the title could go anywhere.

Teams:

Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Toure (Lescott 31), Kompany, Kolarov,Toure Yaya, De Jong, Barry, Silva (Richards 84),Tevez (Milner 90), Balotelli.

Subs Not Used: Given, Adam Johnson, Vieira, Jo.

Sent Off: Kolarov (79).

Booked: Toure Yaya, Tevez, Kolarov.

Goals: Tevez 4.

Bolton Jaaskelainen, Ricketts, Cahill, Knight, Robinson,Lee (Moreno 82), Mark Davies, Muamba, Petrov (Taylor 63),Elmander (Klasnic 77), Kevin Davies.

Subs Not Used: Bogdan, Steinsson, Blake, Cohen.

Booked: Kevin Davies, Knight.

Att: 46,860

Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).

Manchester City 3 Salzburg 0
Wednesday 1st Dec 2010 : GYKO at the COMSTAD

Mario Balotelli scored a brace to help Manchester City claim a place in the next stage of the Europa League.
And they emphasised their credentials in the process as the double was completed against the Austrian champions, meaning City qualified for the last 32 in February with a game to spare. Former Inter Milan striker Balotelli, who arrived in the summer for £24million, scored either side of half-time with Adam Johnson also finding the target. It was almost like a training session for City given their possession and they should have been more than one goal to the good at the interval.

They made their intentions clear as early as the third minute when Patrick Vieira - one of eight changes to the side - flicked the ball on to Jo only for Franz Schiemer to make a timely challenge. Balotelli was quickly into the game and cut in from the left but sent his effort over the bar before he got on the end of a cross from Johnson in the ninth minute. The ball broke to Joleon Lescott, who was crowded out. City should have taken the lead in the 15th minute when Vieira released Balotelli with superb through-ball. He raced on, only for goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel to boot his effort clear. Their pressure paid off in the 18th minute thanks to Balotelli, who swept home a fine volley from inside the area following a cross from Pablo Zabaleta.

They were cutting Salzburg open and made an unsuccessful appeal for a penalty in the 32nd minute. James Milner found Balotelli with a defence-splitting pass and the striker homed in on goal. However Schiemer was able to get in a challenge that left his opponent on the floor but referee Libor Kovarik deemed it was fair. Then Zabaleta picked out Shaun Wright-Phillips in the 40th minute and he tested Tremmel from distance with an instinctive shot. City should have added a second a minute before half-time following another quick break. Johnson sent Milner scampering away but he steered his effort the wrong side of the post.

City were looking to build on their lead and Wright-Phillips got clear in the 48th minute. Jo and Balotelli were waiting in the area but the delivery from the winger was poor and it was cleared to safety. The referee then angered the visitors by allowing play to continue in the 55th minute after Simon Cziommer was left pole-axed. Balotelli came close to extending City's lead as Cziommer lay prostrate on the pitch. However he was able to clamber off the stretcher and make his way to the dressing room.

City squandered another good chance of adding a second goal in the 58th minute after a sweeping move. Jerome Boateng and Wright-Phillips linked up but Balotelli's powerful effort ended up in the side-netting. Then Milner cleared the bar with a 20-yard shot after being set up by Johnson before they eventually extended their lead.

Balotelli scored his second goal from close range following a ball from Vieira after Johnson had won possession. He almost completed his hat-trick a minute but again his effort found the side netting. Balotelli was given a standing ovation when he was replaced by Emmanuel Adebayor in the 71st minute.

And City made it 3-0 seven minutes later following a fine individual effort from Johnson. He skipped past three dispirited Salzburg players before finding the corner with his shot as City march on.

Teams

Man City Given, Boateng, Toure (Richards 81), Lescott, Zabaleta, Wright-Phillips, Vieira, Milner, Adam Johnson, Balotelli (Adebayor 71), Jo.

Subs Not Used: Hart, Kolarov, Barry, Silva, De Jong.

Goals: Balotelli 18, 65, Adam Johnson 78.

SV Red Bull Salzburg Tremmel, Schiemer, Sekagya, Afolabi, Hinteregger (Svento 46), Mendes Da Silva (Augustinussen 67), Hierlander, Leitgeb, Cziommer (Alan 57), Jantscher , Boghossian.

Subs Not Used: Walke, Zarate, Ngwat-Mahop, Offenbacher.

Booked: Afolabi, Boghossian, Sekagya.

Att: 37,552

Ref: Libor Kovarik (Czech Rep).

 

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